March 2, 2020
Scripture Matthew 4:1-11
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.”
Matthew 4:1-2 NRSV
Many of us first heard this scripture lesson in Sunday school or Vacation Bible School. Over time, our understanding of the story probably changed. If someone asked you what was memorable about it, many of you would describe the confrontation of Jesus and the opponent in the story, the satan.
While that sets off a lot of preconceived notions about the presence of evil, the original intent was to offer an opponent, or spokesperson, for anything that would oppose God. No matter how you interpret this portion, these verses describe a unique story in both Luke and Matthew. Interestingly, many of the details are missing in Mark. And, the Gospel of John fails to mention it at all.
Since the Gospel writers couldn’t agree on the best way to engage with this story, what are you and I supposed to do with it? One important aspect is its emphasis on the conflict between the humanity of Jesus and his divine nature. The temptations before Jesus roughly consist of personal comforts, personal safety, and worldly power. That should sound as familiar to our ears as it did for those early believers in the church who were hearing it in the first century after the death and resurrection of Jesus, as the church expanded throughout the territories and culture of Greece and Rome. More importantly, the story has great power: bringing us alongside Jesus and drawing us into his life and mission and ministry.
In the dialogue, Jesus flips each challenge, placing emphasis on God’s power and grace, which remain available for you and me, as well! God’s abundant love for us remains an excellent foundation for continuing our own faith journey, as we prepare ourselves for the coming of Easter during this Lenten season.